Transforming Knowledge

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/9/2018

A Personal Relationship with God?

In Christian circles, people will talk about having a “personal relationship with God.” What does that really mean? What does that look like? People will tell you all about their relationship with their Church, or their pastor, or a hundred other religious things. But that’s not the question. I wonder if you’ve ever experienced this: You ask someone about their relationship with God, and they rather mechanically start talking “about” God: “Well you know, God is good. God is love. He wants you to go to Church…”

Or maybe they spout off a litany of propositional truths they learned about God in catechism. They give you a textbook perfect answer! “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. . . And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: The forgiveness of sins: The resurrection of the body: And the life everlasting. Amen.” { This is the Apostles Creed }
I’ve seen this thing happen where a person goes off to Seminary, to study theology. I know that sounds amazing, and it can be. But what often happens is we can have a funny way of objectifying, studying, systematizing information about God without every developing a personal/intimate walk with God.

In Colossians 1:9-10 Paul prays for the Colossians to have a personal walk with God: “. . . since the day we heard this {your hope-faith-love}, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him:

In your study guide circle two phrases. In v.9 Paul says “We are asking that…” And in v.10 Paul prays, “so that…” We are asking “that you may be filled with knowledge. . . so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” In Scripture, knowledge is never purely cerebral. God is interested a relationship that runs much deeper than filling us with head knowledge. Bible studies are great—but only if they’re a springboard to a more personal, intimate walk with God.

There are four ways we can know/Love God. All four a necessary. First, we can know/love propositionally (logically). There is a place for us to study God, and to share whatever facts we know to be true of God. There is right doctrine and wrong doctrine about God.

Knowing and Loving God "Propositionally"

Propositional truth (like the Apostles Creed) orients our minds to think about God properly, logically, in various categories of thought. One of the most basic propositional truths is that “God exists. God is really there. We are not alone. In the beginning, God created heavens/earth.” Propositional truth can be a starting point for faith. The Colossians heard there is hope in Jesus, and they began to grow in faith/love.

Knowing and Loving God "Personally"

Second, we can know/love God personally. Paul prays in v.9 that “they will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will.” He prays in v.10 that that they will live lives “fully pleasing” to the Lord. The profound step here is to understand the very personal nature (and personhood) of God. God is a “Father.” The Father has a will. The Father has thoughts, feelings, and desires. There are things that please God, just as there are things that displease God. To speak of God’s “will” is for us to recognize that God is aware, engaged, and personally affected by you and me. We can stir God’s pleasure just as well as we can stir God’s wrath.

When we sin, we’re not violating some cold, impersonal, dead, universal law/standard… Rather, our “sin” is a personal affront to the very character & nature of God. Our sin is a personal affront to his holiness and righteousness. But when we live for God’s will, God is honored. He is filled with pleasure. We’re said to be walking in a manner worthy of God. A person can rather coldly/correctly spout propositional truth about God, yet possess absolutely no intent to please God!

Knowing and Loving God "Practically"

Third, we can know/love God practically. Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with “spiritual wisdom.” Wisdom is the practical application of love in everyday life. The other day I was visiting Bill and Joyce Nyilas. We have all been praying for God to heal Joyce’s heart and kidneys and restore her strength. Each time I’ve visited Joyce I’ve been struck by how much Bill loves Joyce. He scours over the ingredients of everything she eats. He monitors the room temperature down to the degree. He administers her medicine, butters her toast, anticipates all her needs. It’s one thing to profess love for a person (even God). It’s quite another to translate love into tangible practical actions.

Why does Paul pray for spiritual wisdom here? We can know God’s will in a general sense. But we don’t always know how to live out God’s will practically. For example, there is a family member God wants me to love. But what does that practically mean? How do I love “when…” When this person is ungrateful, demanding, self-centered, presumptuous, manipulative? When they refuse to take responsibility… repent… change? Love has to be practical, not just conceptual. What do I actually say or do? But this is what it looks like to walk with God. Christ has become my life. It’s no longer I who live, Christ is living in me. I’m his hands, feet, his mouthpiece, ambassador.

Knowing and Loving God "Perceptively"

Fourth, we can love God perceptively (intuitively). Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with “spiritual understanding.” There are so many things that do not make sense in this life. We have such a finite perspective. God’s ways are so far beyond our ways. Someone likened us to spiders sitting on a spider web. The spider only perceives what happens within his tiny web. A person perceives only what happens within their limited perspective, their tiny universe, the tiny speck of dust upon which they live. Yet God stands outside the web. God is omniscient, all-knowing, all-perceiving, all-understanding… He sees things both near and far!

Paul is praying that the Colossians will know/love God even when life on the web doesn’t make sense. In Philippians 4:7 Paul prays for the Philippians that, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, would guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Think of all the things you don’t understand in life. Just because you don’t understand something, must you always plummet into a faith crisis? Absolutely not! I don’t understand why my dad died so suddenly, but I still love God. I know that God is sovereign over life/death even though I preferred a much different timeline. When you know who God is… you don’t have a faith crisis when things you don’t understand happen. Instead you wait, you pray, you keep seeking. Sometimes answers come, sometimes not. When answers don’t come, you ask God to guard your heart/mind.

Here is what we know be praying daily: God please fill me with knowledge. God, show me what personally pleases you. God, help me translate my love for you into practical everyday wisdom. God grant me spiritual understanding, and if that’s not possible, grant me peace… guard my heart and mind in regard to those things that lay beyond my tiny little web of understanding.

God Helps Us Bear Fruit

Now as you walk with God, some awesome things are to happen. First, you will BEAR FRUIT. In Colossians 1:10 Paul prays for the Colossians to be “bearing fruit in every good work.” If your desire is to love God personally, practically, and pursue all spiritual understanding…. there will be transformation. Our knowledge of God is never without affect, it always transforms and renews and sanctifies. In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul speaks of “putting off the old self with its practices” and “putting on the new self.” How does this happen? He says, “You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” Good fruit, good works, transformation… is the byproduct of true knowledge of God.

God Helps Us Grow in Knowledge

Second, you will GROW in KNOWLEDGE. In Colossians 1:10, Paul prays for the Colossians to be “growing in the knowledge of God.” This is one of the most amazing things about the Christian life. If you ask, God will show Himself to you through His Word… through His Son, Jesus… by His Holy Spirit… through communion with God’s Holy Saints. I view the Christian life as one continuous, never ending AHA moment. It’s like living in a state of perpetual amazement and awe. I can tell when a person is walking with God—they hunger/thirst to know God is practically unquenchable! It’s so cool.

God Helps Us Be Strengthened

Third, you will BE STRENGTHENED. In Colossians 1:11 Paul prays for the Colossians to be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully…” People often assume that if their walking with God, they’ll lead a trouble-free life. They’ll be healthy. They’ll be wealthy. There won’t be any wrinkles/hiccups in relationships. Life will be like living on easy street. The majority of Christians in the world, do not live on easy street. We most certainly know that the Apostle Paul didn’t live on easy street, nor the early Church.

Look how Paul prays here... that the Colossians would have “endurance, patience, and joy.” What if the way God has decided to show his glorious might is by giving you endurance. Your strength should have given out long ago, yet here you are. Praise God. Your patience should have expired long ago. You could have grown angry and bitter through all that’s happened in your life. Yet every day you trust God, even though tomorrow feels so uncertain. You have unspeakable joy despite the unspeakable pain you’ve faced. God doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life… but he does guarantee, by his glorious might, to supply you great endurance, patience and joy.

God Helps Us Give Thanks

Fourth, you will JOYFULLY WORSHIP! In Colossians 1:12 Paul prays for the Colossians to be “giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

When you have a personal relationship with God, you have a testimony about what he has done in your life. A lot of Christians have church testimonies. “My church has the coolest lights, video, music, programs, coffee.” A lot of Christians have pastor testimonies. “My pastor is so amazing, dynamic, and courageous, and woke, and fit, and hip, and relevant, and blah blah blah.” But what about a testimony about Jesus?

Try this out of size! God demonstrated his love in this—though my sin deeply grieved God, God loved me none the less. He sent his One and Only Son into the world to take away my guilt. He took my penalty for sin and died my death. God has granted me a hope that extends beyond my health… I can trust in something greater than wealth… God has enabled me to love people with a supernatural kind of love. God has qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints! God has written me into his will! God has blessed me in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. God has rescued me from my darkness. God has transferred me into the Kingdom of the Son he loves. God has redeemed my life and forgiven my sins.

I’ve been brought from old to new; death to life; despair to hope; fear to faith; cruelty to love; Guilt to forgiveness; I was lost but now I’m found; I was unloved but now loved; Corrupted but now redeemed; Wounded but now healed; Ignorant but now being filled with all knowledge. Weak but now strong. Bitter but now joyful. Once ungrateful, but now overflowing with thanksgiving; once impatient now patient; once defeated now enduring; once stumbling now walking….

Paul is praying “that we may be filled with knowledge. . . so that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, being strengthened, worshipping/giving thanks…” This is what vibrant relationship with Jesus looks like! Will you make this your prayer? Will you pray this over for others?

Scripture Verses

Colossians 1:9-11

Worship Set

  • Found In You - Vertical Worship
  • Build My Life - Housefires
  • In Control - Hillsong Worship
  • This Is Amazing Grace - Phil Wickham
  • Lakeside Worship Playlist

Study Questions

  1. Why did Paul continually pray for the Christians at Colossae? What request did Paul make on behalf of the Colossians?
  2. What is the relationship between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding? (See also Proverbs 1:1-7.) What should these three produce? (See Colossians 3:16 & James 3:13-17.)
  3. How does Paul describe a "walk worthy of the Lord" in this passage? 
  4. Why does Paul point specifically to "endurance and patience" as the result of God's power in us? When have you needed God-empowered endurance and patience?
  5. What do you think Paul means by "the inheritance of the saints"? (See Romans 8:16-23) How does knowledge of this inheritance and thanksgiving for it help us with our walk?
  6. Are you trying to please God and do good works on your own strength? How can you depend on His Spirit this week in a new way?